Yorkshire Day and me – how a cockney helped promote Yorkshireness
Delighted to see Yorkshire Day, August 1st as a top Twitter trend. Back in 1990 I won a number of PR awards for my work in promoting Yorkshire Day.
I loved the comment from another award winner from Northern Ireland at the Institute of Public Relations Sword of Excellence awards who quipped: ‘That’s not bad for a day’s work’.
Credit for the origination of the idea of Yorkshire Day must go to a late, dear friend Colin Holt, the Chairman of the Yorkshire Ridings Society. He conceived of the need to provide a focal point for Yorkshire people everywhere to celebrate their pride in the County (which they would say is ‘God’s Own County’!)
The idea emerged from the Ridings Society campaign to challenge the redefinition of County boundaries following local government reorganisation in 1974. They needed a focal point for Yorkshire pride, and thus Yorkshire Day was born.
August 1st was chosen as there were historical connections with a number of Yorkshire army regiments celebrating what was called ‘Minden Day’ and also it was the birth date of one of the greatest-ever Yorkshiremen, the slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce. (Although in reality a primary motivator for the day was that the Ridings Society members were mainly a group of College lecturers and they were all on holiday at the beginning of August.)
Being a born and bred East Ender, I could never experience the thrill and joy of being a Yorkshireman, although for a number of years I was sort of officially an ‘Honorary Yorkshireman’. I am very proud of my part in nurturing the meme: before we got involved the ‘Yorkshire Post’ newspaper own calendar didn’t have Yorkshire Day listed on August 1st.
Today brings back memories of photocalls not always going to plan: the time Yorkshire’s strongest man got a parking ticket and he sort to resolve it by lifting up his car, photocalls presenting worn-out mums who had just given birth to the first Yorkshire Day babies with a miniature cricket bat signed by the Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and the numerous politically incorrect encounters with Yorkshire legend Freddie Trueman OBE. (Buy me a pint and I’ll share the tales.)
There was also the wonderful Joe Cooper (is he still around?) with his medley of self-penned Yorkshire anthems including the unforgettable ‘Take me back to Heckmondwike’!
I remember hosting a meeting seeking to reconcile the warring Yorkshire Ridings Society and its more recent upstart, the Yorkshire Society – where in true Yorkshire fashion they had fallen out with one another – and the first insult being traded in less than 1.2 nanoseconds: ‘You’re blocking the light…..’
Sadly, in spite of being a great Twitter trend, I believe deep-felt Yorkshire pride and identity could be on the wane.
I was involved in the ill-fated campaign for a Yorkshire Regional Assembly which was more of a whimper than a roar of regional pride.
I witnessed one Yorkshire brand after another being wiped off the map – with the departure of Yorkshire Electricity, Yorkshire Cable, and Yorkshire Rider. Lamentably Tetley’s bitter now being brewed in Wolverhampton.
We live in a country where a sense of regional identity and pride is overwhelmed by the cultural invasion of ‘Engbland’ – the danger of every High Street looking the same.
How much about regional identity is taught in schools? Yet another victim of national curriculum and tick box education.
And I suppose, it must be a very Yorkshire thing to say that ‘Yorkshire Days are not as good as they used to be…’.
But what the heck – to all Yorkshire and Honorary Yorkshire people everywhere, celebrate your pride in Yorkshire – ‘Happy Yorkshire Day!’
Something to say..?